A low-key memoir of a thousand-mile camel trek across the Gobi desert in pre-WW II China, tracing not too diligently the steps of Genghis Khan—and complementing Tim Severin's In Search of Genghis Khan (1992). Just out of Yale at the height of the Depression, DeFrancis (Chinese/University of Hawaii; Visible Speech, 1989, etc.—not reviewed) went to Beijing to learn Chinese in order to get a job with Standard Oil (only belatedly did he discover that Standard Oil did its hiring in New York). The project suggested to DeFrancis in China by Canadian Desmond Martin (a Genghis Khan enthusiast and this book's photographer) was to be only a summer adventure, but the experience and the author's growing interest in the Chinese language were to determine his subsequent career. In a pace as leisurely as that of the camels he and Martin rode, DeFrancis describes with beguiling candor a journey that began at Guihua, where the travelers bought camels; continued north to the Temple of the Larks, gateway to territory ruled by the Mongols; crossed a thousand miles of the Gobi (``Gobi,'' DeFrancis tells us, means ``gravel'') to Suzhou; went down the old Silk Road to Lanzhou, where, to escape escalating tensions between Communists and local warlords, the pair took a raft down the Yellow River to Baotou; and returned by train to Beijing. Along the way, DeFrancis and Martin coped with recalcitrant camels; lived on tea and millet; endured temperatures of up to 140 degrees; visited Etsina, now an abandoned city, which Genghis Khan conquered and Marco Polo admired; saw the southern end of the Great Wall; and observed the death throes of old China as Communists, Japanese, and local warlords vied for control of these sparsely populated and inhospitable regions. As much a gently humorous jaunt as a keenly observed portrait of a place and people about to be devastated by war. (Seventy-eight illustrations, seven maps)

Pub Date: June 30, 1993

ISBN: 0-8248-1493-2

Page Count: 296

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1993

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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